UK: The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) was lofted into a near-Sun-synchronous, low Earth orbit by a Rockot launcher lifting off from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia.
GOCE is the first of a new family of ESA satellites designed to study our planet and its environment in order to enhance our knowledge and understanding of Earth-system processes and their evolution, to enable us to address the challenges of global climate change. In particular, GOCE will measure the minute differences in the Earth’s gravity field around the globe.
The Russian Rockot launcher, derived from a converted ballistic missile, lifted off at 15:21 CET (14:21 GMT) and flew northward over the Arctic. About 90 minutes later, after one orbital revolution and two Breeze-KM upper-stage burns, the 1052 kg spacecraft was successfully released into a circular polar orbit at 280 km altitude with 96.7º inclination to the Equator. The launch was procured from Eurockot Launch Services, a German/Russian company based in Bremen, Germany.